25 April 2014

USA: Obama - U.S. Treaty Commitment to Japan is 'Absolute'

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left)
and US President Barack Obama (right)

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2014 – President Barack Obama, making the first state visit by an American president to Japan in nearly two decades, made clear today the United States would be obligated to come to Japan’s defense in any confrontation with China over islands both nations claim in the East China Sea.

During a joint press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama said treaty obligations to defend Japan would apply if hostilities broke out between Japan and China over the disputed islands known in Japan as the Senkaku and as the Diaoyu in China.

“Let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku islands,” said Obama, while making clear that the United States does not take sides in the dispute.

Sri Lanka: SLN welcomes First Patrol Boat gifted by Australia

The first patrol boat gifted to the Sri Lanka Navy by Australia arrived at the Port of Colombo on 24th April 2014. It was ceremonially welcomed in accordance with naval traditions on arrival. Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Robyn Mudie and Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage were among the distinguished persons who were present at the ceremonial reception.

The Bay Class boat served the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service under the name “Corio Bay” before being gifted to Sri Lanka. It is 38.2 meters long and has a 2.3 meter draft. With a maximum speed of 24 knots, the boat can cover a range of 3,000 nautical miles.

News Report: Analyst - North Korea May Already Have Militarized Warhead

Baik Sungwon

As concern grows that North Korea may be preparing for another underground nuclear weapons test, a leading nuclear scientist says Pyongyang already may have acquired a device small enough to fit atop a missile.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, explained that the North does not need another nuclear test to acquire a militarized warhead.

“I think it is a mistake to think that they require this testing in order to design a militarized warhead. I think they may have gotten one from Pakistan or China," said Albright.

But Albright, who also worked as an inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said that doesn't rule out another North Korea test.

"But what they can't get without testing is reliability. So the testing is invaluable to make sure everything works," he said.

Editorial: ASEAN and UN Peacekeeping

By Carl Thayer

ASEAN will slowly develop and evolve regional peacekeeping coordination capacity.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has set the objective of creating an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015. The ASEAN Community will be based on three pillars or communities: the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
After the ASEAN Political-Security Community is created, what role could ASEAN and the United Nations undertake in peace operations in Southeast Asia and globally? How would ASEAN’s existing capacity and structure have to change in order to deploy on peace operations?
These questions and other questions were posed at an international conference on “The New Landscape of Peace Operations: A Dialogue with South East Asia and Vietnam.” The conference was convened in Hanoi from April 15-16 under the co-sponsorship of the Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Frederick Ebert Stiftung (FES) based in Germany, and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Japan’s Defense Minister Kept Busy as Obama Visits Asia

Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera
(Wiki Info - Image: Wiki Commons)

By Victor Robert Lee

Itsunori Onodera has spent the week bolstering Japan’s defenses, but was not helped by his colleagues.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has been an exceptionally busy man this week, which coincides with U.S. President Barack Obama’s state visit to Tokyo. On April 19, Onodera oversaw the groundbreaking ceremony for a new military base and radar installation on Yonaguni Island, Japan’s westernmost territory, only 110 kilometers from Taiwan and the closest inhabited spot to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, hotly disputed by China and Japan.
Onodera’s attendance at the groundbreaking was delayed by thirty minutes as 70 protestors jostled with security personnel to block the minister’s vehicle. The Yonaguni base will be the first expansion of Japan’s military footprint in more than forty years. In his speech at Yonaguni, Onodera also suggested the possibility of Japan creating additional bases on its southwest islands, which lie closest to China.
The next day at Naha Air Base on the island of Okinawa, Onodera launched a new squadron of four E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to increase surveillance of the skies between China and Japan’s southern islands, which include the disputed Senkakus/Diaoyus. Underscoring the need for the new squadron, the Ministry of Defense reported earlier this month that in the twelve-month period ending March 2014, it had scrambled fighter jets in response to Chinese aircraft approaching Japan’s airspace a record 415 times, up from 306 in the prior twelve months. The ministry said “many” of the Chinese aircraft were fighter jets. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Taiwan to Simulate Chinese Aircraft Carrier Assault

By Zachary Keck

Taiwan’s annual computer-aided war games will simulate a PLA assault led by its carrier, the Liaoning.

Taiwan will simulate an attack against China’s sole aircraft carrier during annual war games scheduled for next month.
According to a report in the China Post, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Tuesday that annual computer war games will simulate Taiwan’s response to an all-out invasion of the island by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2015. The report said that this will include simulating attacks against China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which Taipei apparently expects would be utilized by the PLA were it to invade Taiwan next year.
China Post went on to say that Taiwan’s military would also be simulating various responses to some of the other most recent additions to the PLA’s arsenal, without specifically naming any weapon systems besides the aircraft carrier. Other reports have suggested that Taiwan’s simulated response will include the use of weapon systems that Taiwan recently acquired from the United States, including the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter and the P-3C anti-submarine aircraft. In addition, the drill will include the use of Taiwan’s recent, domestically produced Thunderbolt-2000 artillery multiple-launch rocket system.
No reports suggested that Taiwan’s military would simulate using any of its new so-called “carrier killers,” although the lead ship of the class is expected to be deployed early next year. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: China’s Military Urges Increased Secrecy

By Shannon Tiezzi

A new official report cited by state media urges the PLA to more closely guard its military secrets.

From U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s tour of the Liaoning aircraft carrier earlier this month to the recent release of two music videos featuring footage ofLiaoning’s crew in training, we’ve been seeing a lot of what might be termed “military transparency with Chinese characteristics.” Lest anyone get too optimistic, however, those initiatives were followed up this week by an article in the People’s Liberation Army Daily extolling the virtues of secrecy.  Xinhua also carried excerpts of the article in English translation, with the headline “China’s military requires tightened secrecy.”
The article quoted from a document entitled “Suggestions Regarding the Work of Protecting Secrets Under New Trends,” which PLA Daily said had been issued by China’s Central Military Commission at the order of Xi Jinping. The report named military secrecy as a key requirement to fulfilling Xi Jinping’s exhortation that China’s military should be capable of winning a war. Chinese military personnel must “clearly recognize the severe and complicated situation facing the protection of secrets, always remain sober-minded, persist in strengthening knowledge of enemies and awareness of duty, and spare no effort to fight the battle of maintaining secrecy,” the report urged. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

24 April 2014

Think Tank: The Joint Strike Fighter—an air combat capability enhancement (for Australia)

By Andrew Nikolic

Debate surrounding Australia’s air combat capability has often been emotive and controversial, most recently in relation to Australia’s acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The decision announced on 23 April 2014 to purchase another 58 JSF, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, has reignited debate on the suitability and affordability of fighter aircraft that are the ‘very best of breed’.

Unlike bombers and attack aircraft that focus on ground targets, fighter aircraft are primarily designed for air-to-air combat. A fighter’s main purpose is to establish air superiority over a battlefield—a sensible and necessary precursor to winning the ground fight. Modern fighters are fast, stealthy, sophisticated, and expensive. The JSF fits all those descriptors. But it’s still the best option available to Australia.

Think Tank: China’s emerging undersea capability and the implications for Australia’s future submarine

USN Virginia class Attack Submarine (Wiki Info - File Photo)
By Benjamin Schreer

At ASPI’s recent Submarine Conference the strategic rationale for Australia’s Future Submarine (FSM) was only lightly discussed. Presenters stated that the FSM worked best as an ‘offensive platform’ and ‘up threat’. But that issue deserves a more detailed debate: it’s central to answering the question about what we want the submarines to do. A hidden assumption of the 2009 Defence White Paper, which provided the vision for 12 new and large diesel-electric submarines, was that the boats would be able to operate for extended periods as far away as Northeast Asia, including off the Chinese mainland. Some analysts, including here on The Strategist, support such a view.

But the future undersea environment off the Chinese coast will be markedly different from what it is today. A key reason for that is China’s emerging submarine and anti-submarine (ASW) capability. To be sure, the current undersea balance between the US and China is still very much in favour of our major ally (PDF). Beijing is catching up though, and by the time Australia’s new generation of submarines goes to sea that balance might have shifted. As a recent report (PDF) by the US Congressional Research Service points out, while China’s current submarine force is now quantitatively smaller than it was in 1990, it has ‘greater aggregate capability than it did in 1990, because larger numbers of older, obsolescent boats have been replaced by smaller numbers of more modern and more capable boats’.

USA: VAQ-132 Participates in Republic of Korea Exercise Max Thunder

By MC1 Lynn Frank Andrews

<< An EA-18G Growler from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132 takes off from Gwangju Air Base April 23 during exercise Max Thunder. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Lynn Frank Andrews)

GWANGJU AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - The U.S. Navy's Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132 participated in Max Thunder, a combined aerial training exercise for U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) military aircrews and maintainers that began April 11.

Exercise Max Thunder is conducted annually and aimed at enhancing bilateral air-combat capabilities that increase operational readiness and strengthen the U.S. and ROK alliance. The inaugural addition of the EA-18G Growler from VAQ-132 represented an historic first for Max Thunder, an exercise conducted primarily with U.S. and ROK Air Force assets.